Alberta energy minister 'very encouraged' after meeting with new federal counterpart

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage is calling her first face-to-face meeting with federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan a "very good start." 

'He listened, he heard, he understood,' Sonya Savage says of face-to-face with Seamus O'Regan

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage met with federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan in Calgary on Friday morning. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage is describing her first face-to-face meeting with federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan as a "very good start." 

The two met privately in Calgary at the Alberta government's downtown offices to discuss the state of the province's energy sector and the numerous challenges facing the oilpatch.

Savage called the meeting on Friday morning "very productive."

"I was able to talk about the challenges facing the oil and gas sector here in Alberta and the very real concerns that Albertans have," Savage later told reporters.

"He listened, he heard, he understood. I was very encouraged with the tone and the direction and the relationship ahead."

O'Regan did not meet with reporters following the closed-door talks, but issued a statement Friday afternoon that said the two governments "share the common goal of ensuring that our natural resources, including oil and gas in Alberta, are sustainably developed and continue to be a source of good, well-paying jobs." 

He also said the federal government remains "fully committed" to the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion, a controversial project that will nearly triple the existing pipeline's capacity from Alberta's oilpatch to coastal B.C. 

Liberal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan was sworn in to cabinet this week and flew to Calgary on Thursday night for meetings with the private sector and with Savage. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

There are a number of important issues facing Alberta's energy industry, Savage said, including the construction of the Trans Mountain expansion.

Those include two key pieces of legislation: one overhauling the approval process for new energy infrastructure (Bill C-69) and another restricting oil tankers in British Columbia's northern waters (Bill C-48).

"I think what we've heard is that, for the first time, the government is acknowledging that Alberta has concerns, Albertans have concerns, that there are problems with those pieces of legislation," Savage said.

"We were not hearing that back in June when they passed."

In Ottawa on Thursday, O'Regan suggested the government isn't looking at changes to the legislation, but instead at how they're implemented.

Also discussed CN Rail strike

Savage said they also discussed the CN Rail strike, adding it's her impression that it's on the top of Ottawa's agenda, but would have to wait and see what the federal government is prepared to do.

"Every day is 170,000 barrels of oil that are not being moved out of Alberta," she said.

O'Regan, the MP from Newfoundland and Labrador, was named Canada's newest minister of natural resources on Wednesday, moving from Indigenous services. A former television personality, he was elected in 2015.

The Liberals did not win a seat in Alberta in the 2019 election after nabbing four in 2015.

The province is also challenging the federal carbon tax in court.

This comes amid mounting concern about the impact the fossil fuel industry is having on the environment.

This week, the United Nations and research groups announced global fossil fuel production will be between 50 to 120 per cent over Paris Agreement targets by 2030.